From the Archives: What Ever Happened to Janie Feinburg?

I came across this story during a recent search of my hard drive. It’s not all that old… April, 2009. My intent was to create a superhero fiction series using the 500-words format that I’m still using now. This was to be the first story of that series, introducing not only an entire collection of interesting characters, but the world they inhabited and its very long history as well. I spent a LOT of time coming up with a LOT of back-story for this universe. If you have ever read comic books, imagine coming up with the ENTIRE history of the Marvel or DC universe… just as backstory. Yeah, I did that. Those notes weren’t with this story fragment, so I’m not sure they survived. After re-reading it, there are a few places where I can’t remember what I had in mind, although it’s a safe bet that every name and event that is mentioned was supposed to be significant in some way.

Speaking of names, there is ONE name here that you might find familiar. I’ll leave the research to you. I’ll have a few more comments after the fragment.


What Ever Happened to Janie Feinburg?

Part 1:

The old Honda sighed as Stan Bailey eased out of the driver’s seat. The uniforms at the front of the alley watched him adjust himself… straightening and redistributing his shirt and jacket across his considerable gut. Then he started toward the alley. The uniforms fell in behind him as he passed.

“What diet you on this week, Slim?” said Jimmy Jones.

“All of ’em,” Stan grunted as he sauntered past.

“No, really, looks like you lost a few pounds.”

“How can ya tell?” said the other officer.

Stan paused. He licked his lips before turning around and fixing the second officer with a hard stare, one eye wider than the other.

“This your rookie, Jim?”

“Yeah.” Jones replied.

“Tell him he hasn’t earned the right to talk smack to me.”

“Shut the fuck up, Roy,” Jimmy snapped.

“Hey…” The rookie raised his hands in mock surrender. “Sorry.”

Stan grunted and turned around.

“So what we got tonight?”

“You’re gonna love this one,” said Jimmy.

“I love all of ’em,” said Stan. Ahead, a crowd of officers… some uniformed, some not… gathered around a pair of dark blue dumpsters. They weren’t interested in the dumpsters themselves, but rather something on the ground between them. “Aww, what the hell is this? There’s gotta be thirty cops standin’ around!” Stan growled.

“Crowd control.”

“WE’RE the only crowd out here! I don’t see no press… no looky-loos… just cops stompin’ all over my crime scene.”

“We’re careful-” Jimmy offered, but Stan had already reached the crowd. Officers peeled away at his approach. Some muttered greetings, others merely stepped aside… then stepped aside again to make enough room.

“Comin’ through…” Stan huffed. “…the only guy that actually BELONGS here is comin’ through, so step the hell ba-”

The last word flickered out… becoming an involuntary twitch of the lip as Stan finally saw what had drawn the crowd.

She was beautiful.

She was a wreck, too… someone had worked her over fairly well, even for THIS city.

Stan could feel the men around him trying to do his job… trying to unbreak bones, unbruise tissue, re-locate joints… trying to put this beauty back together. What had she looked like before somebody dumped her naked in an alley?

Her shoulder-length hair would have been blonde if it weren’t for all the blood. Two shockingly blue stars beamed out of the mess that someone had made of her face. Her jaw sat at an slanted angle to the rest of her skull. He couldn’t quite tell what she’d looked like when she smiled, but Stan had no doubt that it was a smile that could stop traffic. If the smile didn’t, then the legs certainly would have.

What had she been? Model? No. She was too short. Straightened out and measured, this beauty would barely reach 5’5″. Dancer, perhaps… exotic or otherwise? No…. as beautiful as she was, she was carrying just a tad bit too much muscle… like an athlete or physical trainer. Whoever she’d been; she’d obviously taken good care of herself… when she was alive to do it. But now, her perfectly-muscled legs lay at angles to her well-toned torso. One arm lay folded behind her back, the other flung out toward the wall. The wrist was broken, hand folded down so her fingers touched her forearm. She wore no rings or jewelry. Stan studied the fingers for signs of what might have been taken. Nothing…. nothing except for the distinct marks of the handcuffs and the unmistakable dark line around the neck.

“Bound, beaten, strangled,” Stan ran the words past his lips almost as one word. “Jesus. Who the hell did YOU piss off?”

Stan felt the officers around him stir. When he turned back toward the mouth of the alley, he saw that someone else had joined them.

The man was meticulously shaven, with harsh angular features. He wore a dark brown overcoat that hung open to reveal crisply pressed shirt, slacks, and a tie. He more like a businessman than a cop, although technically he was neither.

“Jimmy, you and the rookie keep this alley secure,” Stan ordered. “The rest of you…”

He didn’t need to finish. The assembled officers were already dispersing. Some did so with reluctance, while others cast anxious glances back at the newcomer.

“Spoonie!” Stan greeted him with an obnoxiously wide smile. “I’m SO glad you’re here.” The stranger’s emotionless expression became a frown as he came to a halt before Stan.

“Stanley,” he sighed. “There’s nothing I can do to make you stop hating me, is there.”

“Oh, I don’t hate you, Spoon. I just don’t like you. So what brings Morgan Scribe out to my crime scene?”

“I should think that’s obvious.” Morgan nodded at the naked corpse.

“Oh, there’s a lot obvious here,” Stan replied. “None of it explains YOU, though. But I ain’t stupid. You being here means there’s somethin’ I ain’t gonna like. About this corpse, or about whoever put it here. Care to fill me in, or are you just gonna stomp all over proper police procedures like your kind usually do?”

Morgan hesitated for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a manila folder. Stan couldn’t see what was written on the tab. Inside the folder was a clear plastic rectangle, slightly smaller and thicker than a sheet of paper. He held it in front of him as if he were about to read it… then glanced expectantly at Stan. Waiting.

“Toys,” Stan grunted.

“It’s just smartpaper; its not going to bite.”

“Riiigh. Today it’s fancy smartpaper. Tomorrow there’s a black flying saucer parked over New York. Oh wait, that’s already happened.”

Morgan waited.

“All right, let’s see.” Stan stood next to Morgan. It wasn’t quite shoulder-to-shoulder, as Stan was a good two feet shorter. “Shoot.”

Morgan ran his finger along the edge of the plastic. The surface went from translucent to solid black, and then flickered a few times. When it stopped, Stan was looking at a replica of a federal identification card. The photograph in the upper left corner was of a smiling blonde girl with bright blue eyes.

“Our corpse-”

“Our?”

“-is Janine Feinburg. Registered Active #0112. Operated under the names ‘BlueJay,’ which she gave up for legal reasons, and most recently as ‘Indigo’.”

“Never heard of her.”

“You wouldn’t have.” Morgan adjusted the position of his finger on the page. The image flickered, changing to a shot of a Janine Feinburg in costume. Blue and white tights with long, flaring sleeves and a star-shaped opening on her chest. She barely had the cleavage to pull it off. The photo was an action shot of her in mid-leap, foot extended in a side kick. “This is Indigo”

“STILL never heard of her.”

“She ran with some big names, but was never one herself. Mostly operated in the midwest.” As Morgan spoke, a series of images flashed across the smartpaper. All featured Indigo/BlueJay either alone, or with any number of other constumed heroes. “Remember the Honor Guard?”

“No.”

“Not many people do. A patriotic group… superpowered militia, more or less. Founding member, but she jumped ship just after they merged with the Justice Wheel. Turned out to be a good move, considering how they ended up.”

Stan watched the images flicker across the page. Action shots. Posed shots. Group shots and solo shots. The uniform was mostly variations of the same theme… showing more skin or less, depending on the fashion at the time. But it was the same girl in all of them. Same blue eyes. Same slightly over-muscled body.

“She went solo, and eventually turned up on the wrong side of the Registration Initiative.”

“Wrong side?” Stan frowned sarcastically. “Which side was that, exactly?”

“The side that lost. After that, she ceased all metahuman activities… official and unofficial… and dropped off the radar. Until now.”

“Well she was certainly up to SOMETHING,” said Stan as he watched the pictures flicker past. The slideshow had already started to repeat. He studied the images more closely the second trip through. There were lots of faces and costumes, but three or four of them turned up more often than the others. Stan made note of those faces. He also made note that, in all the images, he never saw Janie… or ‘Indigo’… use any sort of ability.

“So what was her deal?” Stan asked.

“Her… deal?”

“Yeah. I see a buncha shots of her jumpin’ around, kickin’ people in the nuts. No eye-beams or whirlwinds or lightning bolts… so, what was her deal?”

“Martial artist. Excellent physical conditioning.”

“What… that’s it? She straps on the spandex with nothin’ ta back it up but good genes and a gym membership?”

“Some people do that.”

“Some people jump out of perfectly good airplanes, too. Hmph. At least THAT’S a lot safer.”

“I thought you’d approve. People need to know that you don’t need powers to make a difference… that not every hero is a freak accident or a mutation. Normal, everyday people-”

“-need to wear normal everyday clothes and have normal everyday jobs. Hang out with normal everyday friends. Not these-” Stan tapped the plastic rectangle, which was at that moment displaying a group shot of heroes, smiling at the camera. “-freaks. Even YOU know better than that.”

Morgan looked at him.

“You don’t know anything about me, Detective Bailey.”

“Somehow I don’t see you swinging from the rooftops in your underwear, Spoonie.”

“We all make a difference in our own way. Powers or not. As for Indigo… have you seen what the average civilian… the average COP looks like these days? Look in a mirror sometime. Compared to you, being able to run two blocks without passing out IS a superpower.”

The two men exchanged hard stares.

“We finished?” said Morgan.

“Yeah,” Stan huffed. “You can leave my crime scene now.”

“You mean OUR crime scene.”

“Says who?”

“Says Trinity City Directive 113. I consult on any homicide involving an metanormal victim.”

“Metanormal? This here is a naked girl in an alley-”

“Her name is Indigo”

“Her NAME is Janie Feinburg. You said yourself she doesn’t have any powers. So she ain’t no metanormal-”

“She was one of us.”

“Hell, YOU aren’t even one of you.”

“When one of us dies, we need to do things a bit differently.”

“Why? Because you’re better than everybody else, or because regular police work is just not good enough?”

“Is this just revenge from an old enemy, or is it the start of something bigger? More anti-hero mob violence or another killer android? We don’t know… and we need to. We don’t want to be caught like that again. Ever. When a hero dies, one of US gets the case.”

“But you ain’t no cop. And you ain’t no flippin’ HERO either.”

“I’m a consultant with the full backing of your employers.”

“But you AIN’T no COP!”

“You’re the only one that seems to have a problem with that.”

“No, not the only one.”

“You implying something, detective?”

“I’m implying that there’s a dead girl here. No tights… no costume… no signs of metahuman activity… just a dead girl. I’m gonna find out what happened to her. ME. Not you.”

“I’ll be working on this with or without your help. Working together will make this go much more smoothly.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Stan. “Seeing as how we’re on two different cases.”

“What?”

“I wanna know what happened to Janie Feinburg. You? All you care about is Indigo. They’re both dead, but only one of ’em was murdered. Until I know for sure which one that was… you’d best keep your ‘help’ as far away from my case as possible.”

Part 2: Almost Midnight.

When Trinity City opened its arms to displaced superhumans after the collapse of the Registration Initiative, the ratio of metanormals to normals went from 1 in 50,000… the national average… to 1 in 100. Not all of the newcomers wore masks and brightly colored outfits. Not all of them fought crime. Most wanted to be left alone.

But then there was the NightSide.

An eight block section of city, stretching from Folsom Dr. to Parker Rd, existed in a state of eternal darkness. Even on the brightest of days, the sun barely penetrated the massive shadow that hung over the area like a thundercloud hovering just out of reach of the tallest buildings. After four years, the Shadow remained a permanent fixture of the city, in spite of many attempts to disperse it. And beneath it, the subculture of the superciminal had risen to prominence. The city had given up on the area long before, abandoning its denizens to the street gangs. When the Shadow rose, those gangs either moved away, ‘disappeared’, or became henchmen for new, more powerful masters.

Naturally, there was resistance. Attempts to infiltrate the NightSide and find the source of the black cloud always ended first with failure, then with retaliation. After the riots of ’07, the city made an uneasy truce.. Not a surrender… but a temporary ceasefire pending ‘consideration of options’ by the lawmakers.

Thus far, no viable options had presented themselves.

Morgan Scribe knew most of this only through the newspapers he’d memorized. He was a relative newcomer to Trinity City. But this wasn’t his first time on the NightSide. He knew his way around… where not to go. What not to do.

Sitting in a parked car openly watching people go in and out of Club DarkLight was definitely something NOT to do. The owner of that club… more specifically, the owner of the secret rooms UNDERNEATH the club… did not like being surveilled.

But Scribe had a murder to solve. A hero had been raped and beaten to death. Maybe someone in the club knew something, and Scribe wouldn’t have been at all surprised if his search for the suspect… once he HAD a suspect… lead him back to this place. But that wasn’t why he was there now. He had questions, and the only way to ask them was to use himself as bait.

“C’mon,” he sighed. He looked up at the black miasma overhead. It was just after 10:00am with not a cloud in the sky… anywhere else. But here it looked almost midnight. “I’m on your turf and I know you’re watching. Come get me.”

Almost immediately the temperature began to drop. The chill was so sharp and distinct that Scribe could place its location. Behind him, to the right. It had passed silently through the glass of the rear window, and Scribe could feel it settle into the unoccupied passenger seat.

“Hello, Wight,” said Scribe.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The words came in an icy… and somehow distant whisper. Though the voice was clear, its origin less so… it seemed to come from an indistinct area in or near the car. Only the cold placed it exactly.

“Talking to a ghost, apparently,” Scribe replied. He glanced briefly at the passenger’s seat. It was empty, but Scribe filled it with his own mental image. It was not of his new companion, though… not exactly. No clear images of The Wight were known to exist… his very nature made it unlikely that there ever would be. But there WERE images of Franklin Waid in Scribe’s files… and since the voice that addressed him belonged to Waid, it was only fitting that Scribe’s mental picture did as well.

“Or trying to become one. They don’t like heroes here. Neither do I.”

“I had to speak with you. This is the only way to get your attention.”

“Suicide? They’re watching you right now… behind those metal walls. Trying to decide which of them they’ll send out…”

“There was a murder last night.”

“There’s going to be one here soon. Very soon, I think-”

“Indigo. Remember her?”

Icy cold filled the sudden silence.

“One of us,” said the cold. “I knew her. She was… helpful. Once. Long time ago.”

“I wouldn’t look for any more favors. We found her this morning; beaten to death and dumped in an alley.”

Scribe pictured Frank Waid sighing… shaking his head and turning away for a moment. He’d studied Frank’s mannerisms from before the accident that changed him. The mental image was likely accurate.

“Can’t say I’m surprised,” the cold said after a few moments. “Might even say long overdue.”

“Oh? She have enemies-”

“We ALL have enemies. What she didn’t have was a reason to strap on a mask and pick fights with people who could crush cars with their minds.”

“And by ‘reason’ you mean ‘power’.”

Another awkward, frozen silence… this one was shorter than the last.

“Surprised she lasted as long as she did.”

“Was she active?” Scribe asked.

“Didn’t even know she was in town. Not that I would. Unless she came here. She’s not stupid enough to come here.”

Scribe felt the cold stare at him.

“So you don’t know anything?”

“No.”

“Which, in itself, is something,” said Scribe “No one here had anything to do with it. You’d know.”

“No one in this corner of the Dark. The Russian keeps an orderly house… down there, where I can’t see them. His world and hers wouldn’t mix. Not without my seeing it.”

“This lot goes to the bottom of my list of suspects, then.”

The cold said nothing.

“Any ideas who should take their place near the top?”

“The Dark has many corners… most are not as well-behaved as this. You’ll have to crawl further in.”

“Any place in particular?”

“Abernathy Road has a history of separating men from their secrets.”

“Who am I looking for?”

“Ahh, they’ve decided…”

Ahead, the iron doors of the DarkLight Club swung open, and a single figure stepped out onto the street.

“I’ll leave you to this,” said Wight.

“Wha-”

Scribe felt the cold shift toward the window… then through it. Gone.

“Shit.”

Scribe recognized him instantly. He was hard to miss, and harder to forget.

William “Billy” Oberman. aka. “The Ogre”.

Scribe’s files placed Oberman’s exact height at 4’5″. Shoe inserts added another few inches… not that it made much difference. He was in his mid twenties. His height and boyish features made it easy to mistake him for a child. Since relocating to Trinity City, the Ogre had traded in his signature ripped jeans and wrinkled T-Shirt for a tailor-made suit that cost more than Scribe’s car. His normally unkempt hair was dyed black and perfectly styled. He looked like a miniature lawyer.

“Great,” Scribe muttered as he started the car. “Him. They had to send HIM.”

The ignition buzzed, but no sound came from the engine. Something was wrong.

“Ahhhh shit.” He tried again, but knew he’d get the same result. This time, he knew why. It was a new car, and fancy electronics didn’t tolerate Wight’s presence very well.

Outside, Oberman glared at him. He stepped off the sidewalk and started across the street toward Scribe’s vehicle.

“If you’re just gonna watch, DO IT SOMEWHERE ELSE!” Scribe hissed, but not at Oberman. “The CAR WON’T START!”

“Hey!” Oberman called. It was the voice of a child trying to sound older than he was. “Hey YOU!”

“C’mon!” Scribe tried the engine again. It started. “Yes!”

Scribe turned the wheel and slammed the accelerator to the floor. The car screamed away from the curb and spun in a tight, screeching arc in the street. Scribe took his foot off the accelerator as the back of the car whipped around… dangerously close to Oberman… then floored it again.

The car shot forward-

“NUH-UH!”

Oberman reached for the trunk. The back of the car was just a foot beyond his fingertips. Smiling, The Ogre curled his fingers as if grabbing the cheap metal frame-

KRRNNNK!

The trunk caved in as if clutched in a pair of massive hands. The car jerked to a halt. Scribe slammed into the steering wheel and recoiled back into the seat.

“GAH! F-”

The back of the car jerked upward. The rear wheels spun uselessly. Then gravity shifted as The Ogre adjusted his “grip” and lifted the ENTIRE car off of the street. He tilted the vehicle so he could look up through the rear window.

Scribe turned and looked back at him. He had a clear view of The Ogre… legs planted firmly and arms outstretched… as if he were holding the car with physical strength instead of telekinesis. Fortunately, Ogre’s power was limited to within a few feet of his body. Inside that range, he was one of the strongest telekinetics on record… a talent that he used mainly to throw heavy objects and smash things with displays of TK-enhanced muscle.

“All Right!” The Ogre shouted up at him. “Who The Fuck Are You!”

“Wait…” The Ogre frowned. It made him look even more like a child. …a child holding a car in his hands. “I know you!”

“We’ve met,” Scribe replied calmly, but still loud enough to be heard. He reached into coat pocket and stealthily fumbled through the objects he found there. “Briefly.”

“You’re that guy! Hero-wannabe. Cop-wannabe. You know what happens to heroes and cops out here, right?!”

“I’ve heard. Speaking of which… Remember Indigo?”

“Bitch kicked me in the nuts! TWICE!”

“She did a lot of that.”

“So what does that have to do with me folding this car up like an harmonica with you inside it?”

“I think ‘accordion’ is the one you meant.”

“What -the fuck- ever.”

“Indigo’s dead. Know anything about it?”

“Hmph. Like I said, heroes tend to get dead around here.”

“Actually, they don’t. You spend most of your time killing each OTHER… ever wonder if that’s the real reason they leave you alone in this cesspool?”

Scribe’s fingers found the object they sought. His expression never changed.

“You talkin ta me!? I got your fucking CAR… IN MY HANDS… OVER my fucking HEAD! With YOU in it! And you’re fucking havin’ a conversation!?”

“Speaking of which, you might want to put my car down nice and easy now, Billy.”

“Billy? …the fuck? Its OGRE! OH GEE EEE AR! And FUCK YOU!”

“Fine. Ogre. Just put me down and we’ll call it a draw, okay?”

“Draw!?! I went toe-to-toe with the motherfucking Pinnacle! What are YOU gonna do?”

“Pinnacle kicked your ass. Badly. On national television. I saw it on cable.”

“Well YOU ain’t him! You’re just some spoonbender wants to be a hero. Lemme show you what that gets you around-!”

Scribe couldn’t wait for ‘The Oger’ to start shaking the car, or slamming it into the street, or just tearing it apart with giant, invisible, telekinetic hands. He didn’t really want to wait for him to finish the sentence. He had to act now-

The long, narrow cylinder slid easily out of his coat pocket. It looked like a pen.

It WAS a pen.

But when Scribe aimed the blunt end down the length of the car and pushed the button, the Ogre screamed and dropped the car. The sudden jolt bounced Scribe around in the seat. His head hit the top of the car once… twice. He grabbed the steering wheel…

“AAAGH!” Billy Oberman had clapped his hands… his REAL hands… over his left eye. He was howling in pain.

“You think you’d learn by now,” Scribe said. “Telekinesis requires concentration.”

“THE FUCK!? WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT THE FUCK!??”

“You just got owned by a laser pointer, kid,” Scribe shouted back the instant before he hit the accelerator and sped away. “Now I got places to be.”

Part Three:

Janie Feinburg lived at the top of a nondescript apartment building on the east end of downtown. Detective Bailey studied the view from her living room window.

“Well this is underwhelming,” he said. “Crappy apartment with a view… of better places you’ll never afford.”

“I think its amazing,” said Annette. She pushed her thick glasses back into place with one dainty finger, then continued to gawk at the mundane apartment’s contents. Annette was taller than Stan, but thin and wiry. Stan was grateful that the uniforms milling around in the hallway were too young to know who Laurel and Hardy were.

Ann Newton was a CSI technician, but that wasn’t why Stanley had asked her to accompany him to the victim’s apartment.

“Look-Look!” Annette stepped lightly over to a scratched coffee table. “Magazines!”

“So what did Janie spend her free time reading?”

“Masks!” Annette jabbed a finger at the oversized photo-magazine on top of the stack. An overly-muscled man in a royal blue and majestic gold uniform stared out from the cover. The man looked in his forties, with the stern, sad eyes of a man twice his age. The squat, triangular symbol that should have been on his chest had been replaced with a stylized question mark.

“Ohhh, I love that picture” She wanted to pick it up. Stan could tell she wanted to… but Annette was too good of a technician to touch it, even with the medical gloves she insisted they both wear. Besides, she probably had that same magazine on her own coffee table. Along with other, less artsy fare. “I always wondered if they… you know… read their own press.”

“‘Masks’ ain’t press, it’s a vanity-rag for freaks.”

“Oh, hush you.” Annette chided. “I can’t believe we’re actually in her apartment! Indigo’s apartment!”

“You mean Janie Feinburg’s apartment.”

“Secret lair!”

Stan grunted.

“Here’s some trivia,” said Annette. “Heroes with apartments almost always live in the top floor. Or the bottom floor.”

“That’s very useful, Ann,” said Stanley. “So, this ‘Indigo’… what do ya know?”

“Ohhh, so you want to hear about Indigo now? On the way here it was ‘Janie Feinburg this..’ and ‘Janie Feinburg that…’ You don’t even like to say their names, do you?”

“Yeah, sure. Only her NAME was-”

“Everyone ELSE knew her as Indigo. The name you choose is more important than the name you’re given. Desert Son said that.”

“Mmhmm. Indigo?”

“Yeah…” Ann’s frown was in her voice more than on her face. She’d moved away from the stack of magazines and was slowly stalking the perimeter of the living room like a patron at a museum. “… I dunno…”

“What don’t you know?”

“She was never a major name, but she was always… there… ya know? Always in the picture somewhere, but usually by accident. Never the center of attention.”

“Some of ’em like that.”

“But I don’t think this was by choice, ya know? I don’t think the other heroes liked her very much.”

“Oh?” Stan replied. He joined Ann in her slow tour of the apartment. “I seen pictures that say otherwise.”

“Oh come on, detective. Despite what they can do… have done… they’re people just like us. Well, most of them. They can put on an act just anyone else.” Ann chuckled. “Probably better. Definitely better. I mean… you could be working right next to one and never know it, right? Lots of people have.”

“That makes ’em all borderline psychopaths to me,” said Stan.

“Well…” Ann had reached the hall closet. She opened it and peered inside. “Hmph.”

“Anything?”

“Nice shoes. She had big feet, though.” Ann appeared to be looking for something, but she moved on after a few seconds, leaving the closet door open. Stan followed her into the bedroom. He’d already been through the entire apartment, but he watched her take it in for the first time.

“Wow, she slept here.”

“You wanna roll around in the bed?”

“Huh? Why would I wanna do that?”

“Nothing. You were saying she mighta had enemies.”

“Well, I mean… the others just kept their distance, that’s all. They didn’t hate her. Supposedly she didn’t have any powers, right? I mean… totally normal. Not a spark; not a glimmer. Sooo… yeah, she didn’t quite fit in. But it made her stand out, ya know? I mean… she was one of US… but one of them, too.”

“If you say so.”

Ann got down on her knees and looked under the bed.

“We didn’t find any uniforms or contraband technology, if that’s what yer hunting for”

“Oh, Pshh…” Ann stood. “She wasn’t a techie. And she hadn’t worn the uniform since… the unpleasantness.”

Stan chuckled. Hero-worshippers always referred to the Registration Initiative as “the unpleasantness.”

“If they didn’t care for her before, she didn’t make any friends then.”

“She didn’t fight, though. I got that much outta spoo- uhh, Scribe.”

Annette grunted and eyed the assorted combs, bottles, and aerosol spray cans arranged before Janie Feinburg’s mirror.

“Look, Ann, I asked you out here so you could tell me something useful… not so you could hunt for souvenirs.”

“I’m not-”

“Not telling me anything useful, yeah, that’s right.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Some of this girl’s dirty secrets. That’s what you do, right?”

“Well that’s the thing about not being popular, believe me. Your secrets tend to say secret… because nobody cares enough to pry.”

“Somebody cared enough to kill her.”

“So you think Scribe is right; this is about Indigo and not Janie Feinburg?”

“I’m not stupid, Ann.”

“So why not let HIM investigate it his way?”

“Because I’m not stupid, Ann. HIS way doesn’t involve legal process… forget it. Just forget it. Look around all you want. Take pictures for your scrapbook. I’ll be outside.”

“I think you’re both right,” said Ann. Stan halted. “Indigo’s dead. But from what I can see… she didn’t die last night.”

“This some kinda stupid metaphor or something?”

“Kinda. But no, not really. Indigo hasn’t been seen since before the… before Pinnacle retired. This apartment isn’t a hero’s secret lair. It looks just like MINE, only cleaner. And bigger.”

“If there’s a point somewhere-”

“She was a fighter. Not even a fighter with superpowers, like SilverFist. She was just a regular person, but she was out there running with the likes of Desert Son and Lady Arc… fighting the same enemies…. being a real metahuman without an ounce of ‘meta’. You have to be in top physical condition to pull that off. You have to train constantly. You see any exercise or martial arts equipment in here? No. No weights… no home gym. There’s not even a thighmaster tucked under the bed.”

“So she worked out somewhere else.”

“No, she didn’t. Masks don’t hang out at Gold’s Gym. Here, I can prove it… watch this.” Ann’s long strides carried her out of the bedroom. She made a sharp right into the apartment’s kitchen, where she yanked open the refrigerator. By the time Stan joined her, she had the freezer open as well. “Mmhm. See?”

“What, it’s a refrigerator. So?”

“Yeah, but what do you SEE?”

“That has to do with this case? Nothing!”

“Chocolate milk… Soda…. Hot Dogs… French Fries. Ice Cream Sandwiches?! C’mon, Stan! The owner of this refrigerator hasn’t given a damn about their health in YEARS. Nobody who eats this crap is gonna last two seconds against somebody like the Harpy… let alone actually BEAT her in a fight! Do you know what happens to physically active people when they stop being active and start eating like… this?”

“Hmph…” Stan nodded. “I see your point. But there’s a big hole in your theory there, Ann. I saw the body. YOU saw the photos. That was a very healthy corpse… and that’s putting it mildly.”

“Okay,” said Ann. “Then THAT corpse didn’t live in THIS apartment.”

“Well somebody did. This place isn’t a set; somebody ACTUALLY lived here… slept in that bed, watched TV on that couch, read those magazines. That person’s name was Janie Feinburg. That’s a REAL name of a REAL person with a REAL history. People knew her. She had friends, neighbors and coworkers that cried real tears when we told ’em what happened. This is real. The body was positively identified.”

“By who?”

Stan blinked as if struck.

“The way I see it, you’ve got a corpse, Janie Feinburg, and Indigo. Three different people. Who said they were all the same?”

“Scribe,” he growled. “Scribe connected those dots and I didn’t think twice about it. Him and his damned fancy paper. I knew it! I KNEW he wasn’t on the level! DAMN him!”

“Anything else I can help you out with, detective?”

“Yeah. Pass me one of those ice cream sandwiches.”

Abernathy Road was a narrow, almost-hidden spur off of Crown Blvd. The intersection was unmarked, unlit, and quite forgettable. Scribe spotted it a block away. He drove past and ditched his car in an alley. The car… or perhaps even the alley he’d parked it in… might not be there when he got back, but that was acceptable.

He slipped into the darkness and made his way back to the almost-hidden road.

It wasn’t quite deserted.

A few shapes moved along the cracked sidewalks. Those entering from Crown Blvd walked with quickly… not furtive, but clearly not wanting to be out in the open for any longer than necessary. Those returning from whatever lay at the end of Abernathy shuffled lazily… almost reluctantly. Some of them were drunk, but there was something else, too.

Scribe didn’t bother staying in the shadows. In NightSide, EVERYTHING was in the shadows, and every third person could see in the dark. He stepped onto the sidewalk. A few heads turned to regard him with suspicion… but no one stopped or spoke.

“Interesting,” Scribe muttered. He started down the road, heading away from Crown Blvd.

After one block, he heard music. Loud and boisterous with far too much bass. After another block, the number of people on the street doubled… but still wasn’t enough warrant the label of ‘crowd’. People loitered in front of a five-story building that sat at the end of Abernathy road. The building had obviously gone through several incarnations… starting as low-rent, low-capacity apartments. Some time in the past, the floor had been gutted and turned into a store or restaurant of some kind. The burnt, unreadable remnants of a sign still clung to the unlit facade.

Now it was something else.

The lower two floors were lit so brightly that they illuminated the street in front of it, turning it into a courtyard of sorts. The upper floors were… a bit too dark. More than a simple lack of lights, the windows had been boarded up or bricked over entirely.

Women in various states of undress wove through the not-quite crowd. Some carried trays of drinks. Some carried only themselves. All of them moved with an odd confidence… a fearlessness that didn’t fit the NightSide. Scribe spotted a few familiar faces among the patrons. Metahumans from his files. Some were minor criminals, others were simply… minor. None had any significant power to speak of, but even a level one could spark chaos in a gathering like this. Especially with any number of OTHER metahumans waiting to play hero. Or villain.

Scribe wondered just who or what was keeping the order here. If there were any guards, they were exceptionally well-hidden. He approached the building, wondering just how this was going to play out.

THE END (of the fragment)

Yes, that’s where I stopped writing. Why?

I think I started writing too soon… which is a very odd thing to say considering how much effort I spent coming up with backstory for this. But that was the problem: I know a LOT about the history of this particular world, but I knew JACK about this story.

Scribe and Stan were clearly investigating the same crime using different methods, and eventually they were going to come together and find out something shocking. I knew Scribe’s portion of the journey pretty well. He had the most interesting part. But I was seriously stalled with Stan. I BARELY got that scene in the apartment out. It said everything I wanted it to say, but it took way too much effort. Meanwhile, Scribe’s adventures flowed like water. So something was clearly wrong, and I didn’t want to proceed with what was bound to become a severely unbalanced story.

Also, I had some reservations about the world itself. If you’ve read comic books recently you’ve probably picked up on one of the recent events in the this tales’ backstory that is analogous to something that Marvel comics did not too long ago (The Superhero Registration Act, leading to the Civil War and the death of Captain America, blah, blah, blah…). That, and the plotline of the story, and even the title just seemed too derivative of comics that I had read recently. Some things needed to be re-worked or presented in different ways. That, combined with my uncertainties about half of the plot, lead me to shelve this piece.

Oh, and the name that you might have found familiar? I won’t tell… but if you go looking around the Library for it, you won’t find it. Or rather, you shouldn’t. ;)

Hope you enjoyed it, or at least found it interesting.


7 Comments

  1. nate, August 10, 2010:

    This will take me a little while to go through. Copy/paste into Word shows it to be about 30 pages worth of reading, and I have too much work to do at the moment to take that kind of time. I will comment after I’ve had a chance to devour it.

  2. Caber, August 11, 2010:

    Janie is giving me a “Power Girl” vibe, sans big chest.

  3. DarkIcon, August 11, 2010:

    If you’ve read any Marvel, she is very Mockingbird-ish, with the Power Girl star, minus the outrageous cleavage.

  4. epm, August 13, 2010:

    Wight reminds me of something deleted due to authoral problems a long time ago.
    I can see why it would be difficult to continue this plot. It tends to be more fun to write about the crazy, powerfull and dark than about mundane life.
    Anyway, I have nothing against a universe based in comic book plots. At least, not if it is just for fun. If you were writing this one to sell, than something too similar to other comercial stuff might be a problem.
    Anyway, the plot reminded me of Watchmen, including the registration act that reminded me of the ban on vigilantes.

  5. DarkIcon, August 13, 2010:

    There were no plans to sell it, but I still didn’t feel comfortable with the originality of certain elements. Certain elements were intentionally reminiscent of existing comics (not characters, but elements of the backstory). But I think I went a tad overboard with that.

    You were absolutely right about Wight. Frank Waid is based on the character from Wraith, which I removed from the site last year. Both characters were essentially science-created ghosts- people out of phase with reality and who thus exhibit ghost-like abilities. This was to be his re-introduction into my ‘universe’ of stories, this time under my complete control. Trust me, he was gonna be cool.

  6. nate, August 18, 2010:

    As with most of your stories, I was grabbed completely from the first few sentences. If you hadn’t mentioned that this was in the 500 word format I would have thought it a bit rushed, but it fits that format very good. I would have liked to see more, but there’s never enough time.

  7. DarkIcon, August 18, 2010:

    Thanks.

    I probably should have clarified that the “chapters” were longer than 500 words, but each one was written in 500-word chunks. A chapter is one continuous piece of narrative, but it wasn’t intended to be read that way. It added a bit of awkwardness, though.

    I did find my background notes tucked away. Once I get rich (doing other things, obviously) it’ll be nice to re-visit some of this stuff.

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